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How to overcome the dreaded plateau!

Have you hit a wall in your workouts? Have you even noticed that you aren't gaining in strength, pushing more weight, or more reps, even though you may have been working out consistently for years?

If you answered yes, then I know where you are coming from. Life is so busy we feel like we are doing excellent just to get to the gym at all sometimes, but with just a few tweaks and considerations to your workout, you may be able to improve your fitness level from week to week, month to month, and year to year.

Our bodies and our minds are wired to take the easiest route, so when you start pushing that same old weight for the same old amount of reps, your body does as little as it can get away with to get the job done.

What you need is to keep the body guessing so all of your muscle fibers are fully contracted and in use.

Pyramid Plans

Using a pyramid workout plan, is a good start. To follow this plan, after doing a warm-up, start with light weight and do a higher number of reps than you normally might do, not really anymore than 12-20 reps or so. Shoot for around the 15 rep range. Then add weight and drop the number of reps for the next set. Do this for 3-4 sets.

You can do the opposite, go heavy and then light, but make sure you are really good and warmed up first, or you can go up and then back down in weight.

What I have done recently is for some exercises, as this doesn't work well with all types of sets, is to do a light set first, after a warm-up of course, where the object is to go faster than normal, then a heavy set at whatever speed feels natural, then a light set again, this time really slow and controlled to get every muscle fiber used during the workout.

Keep Records

Write down the weight and the number of reps that you do in every workout, even if you like to do your sets in different order every week, which, by the way, is another great way to keep your muscles guessing. See, the key to building a body, is that the progress is slow and measured in tiny inches, not yards, from week to week. If you can gain even one more rep, or one pound from one week to the next, you've made progress and built muscle. If you can keep that up, in a year's time, you'll really notice a major change in your muscular development.

So take notes. Don't rely on your memory to recall whether you lifted 40 lbs for ten reps, or 35 lbs for 8 reps. It's very important to keep track. Look back on your notes every week before you begin each set. Excel is great for making charts you can print out and take to the gym, but even notebook paper is better than nothing.

One thing to note, building muscle can actually take more time than losing fat, depending on where you are in terms of diet and exercise when you start, but the more muscle you have the easier it is to burn fat. It can be tricky sometimes to eat enough to gain muscle and not fat. That's why eating real food and not processed junk food is so important. The more real nutrients you can get to your body without added extras that add unnecessary body fat, the better off you are. Your body is a machine. Treat it as well as you do your car. Why add sugar into your gas tank?

No one becomes the Hulk overnight. It takes time and dedication to get fit and be healthy for the long term.

Split Your Workout Routine Up

Here's something that I understand not everyone has time to do, unless perhaps you have a home gym. Try splitting your workout into two segments in a day, or if you don't have time, split it up during the course of the week.

So, if you normally do pull-ups first on your back day, which is good idea by the way, and then you do wide rows later on, try doing wide rows in the morning, and going back to the gym later on for pull-ups, or vise versa. Or you could do wide rows on Monday and then pull-ups on Wednesday.

You should find that you have the ability to push more weight for more reps for those exercises that you normally do at the end of your workouts, since they will now be at the front of your workout.

The object of the game is to not get bored, and allow for optimum use from your muscles during a given week. You can only do so much weight lifting during a week before you start to over train which makes your body too tired to heal. The healing, of course, is what we need to build muscle. So we want to get the most output from our muscles, during the course of the week, in the shortest time possible, so as to allow for recuperation time.

Another example, say you do your bench press first on chest day every time. By the time you get to decline bench or triceps press down,  you've used up your muscle strength already. So split up your chest day, come back and see how much weight you pushed. Write it all down of course. If by the end of the week, you've actually lifted more weight, then you've succeeded. Be careful though, using heavier weight too fast can be bad on the tendons and joints which take longer to adapt to heavier routines than muscle.

That's why beginners should always work up their weight slowly in the first few months to give their tendons and joints a chance to catch up to their muscle development. Even experienced body builders need to keep this in mind to avoid injury that could sideline you for a good while waiting for your body to heal.

Hopefully, if your body responds well, the next week you should see some minor gain in one or the other exercise. Once you get stuck in a rut and stop moving forward again, it's time to rethink your strategy again.

If you just can't see going to the gym more often then switch the order, and try taking more time between sets.

Lowering Rest Time

Let's say you split your routines up, or you normally take loads of time between sets. You've basically got all you can get out of that strategy what do you do? You do the opposite. You take less rest time. This means you won't be able to do as much weight, but it will provide a great shock for your muscles. Usually, I'll do this when I'm in a hurry to keep my body guessing, but it can be utilized for a few weeks. Just keep record of how much you lift and how many reps you do every set. Try to keep track of your rest time as well, because that could make a big difference when trying to keep track of your progress. You want to have an accurate picture of where you are from week to week.

written by Tim Frady the author of Common Sense Biblical Approach to Health and Fitness: A Christian Perspective on Health and Fitness and the upcoming book, Action Hero Abs for the Average Guy.

Consult your personal physician before beginning any new diet or exercise program.


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